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Book review of Black Flame by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt

category international | anarchist movement | review author Friday March 04, 2011 04:47author by Wayne Price - personal opinionauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism; Counterpower, Vol. 1

A review of Schmidt and van der Walt's Black Flame, a study of the broad anarchist tradition.

cover_v_1_b.jpg


This is a remarkable book, a wonderful book. I wish I had had it years ago when I was developing my politics. Everyone interested in anarchism should read this book. Although not without some quirky judgments, it is clearly committed to anarchism and is carefully and deeply based on scholarly research. It is not a history of anarchism (apparently that will be volume 2), but a thematic discussion of various aspects (although frequently going into the historical background of the topic under discussion).

Instead of the usual Eurocentric presentation, Schmidt and van der Walt place the movement in a world context. Of course the authors know that the anarchist movement began in Europe. Capitalism and the industrial revolution began in Europe and so did the ideological reactions to it: modern democracy, liberalism, socialism (of all varieties), nationalism, internationalism, etc. These ideologies spread around the globe, interacting with and merging with local cultures and struggles. When discussing an aspect of anarchism, the authors may cite examples from France or the USA, but are as likely to give examples from Japan, China, Argentina, or South Africa.

Rather than treating anarchism as a set of great ideas developed by a series of wise sages, the authors regard it as essentially a movement. Rooted in the mass struggles of workers, as well as peasants, along with all the oppressed, the great ideas of anarchism came out of this movement. Even at times when the popular movement dies down and only a small number of revolutionaries hold to the ideal, anarchist ideas are still directed toward the next upswing of mass struggle. While there were libertarian precursors, the anarchist movement, as a movement, began in the 1860s, under the initiative of Michael Bakunin and his companions in the First International, in conflict with Karl Marx. The ideas were developed further by Peter Kropotkin and others, and incorporated into the syndicalist movement (radical, libertarian-democratic, unionism). They call this “the broad anarchist tradition.

To them, this is anarchism. “‘Class struggle’ anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view it is the only anarchism” (p. 19). Even Proudhon does not make the cut. The first to call himself an anarchist, he advocated a reformist program, a market economy, and was against unions and strikes, besides being misogynist. However, they freely admit that Proudhon influenced Bakunin and other anarchists. Nor are they factually wrong, in that, as a movement, anarchism did begin with Bakunin (against the opposition of most Proudhonians). Similarly, they deny that the individualists such as Benjamin Tucker were anarchists, and the same for anyone else who was not pro-working class, revolutionary, and libertarian socialist or communist.

As a matter of historical judgment, I find this a bit quirky, but not terribly wrong. Whether we should call Proudhon a libertarian who influenced Bakunin’s anarchism or say he was an early anarchist is not a big deal. The problem is its current application. A very large proportion of people who sincerely call themselves anarchists today are not for working class revolution. These radicals desire an end to the state, capitalism, and all oppressions—that is, they share the goals of the broad anarchist tradition (unlike, say, so-called pro-capitalist “libertarians”). They seek to achieve this by gradual, nonviolent, steps, living in nonconformist styles, and building alternate institutions. These will, they think, eventually replace the capitalist economy and state.

I have no problem saying that they are outside the broad anarchist tradition of revolutionary, working class, anarchist-communism. They are. But, it seems to me to be pointless to declare that they are not anarchists. This would involve us in a terminological dispute which makes us look sectarian. It is more useful, I think, to argue that such reformists are programmatically wrong and will not achieve the goals they share with revolutionary anarchism

Disputes Among Anarchists and Syndicalists

The authors focus on disputes within the broad anarchist tradition. Covering such disputes, they try to give a fair account of each side in each disagreement but conclude with their own opinion. They are almost always correct in their judgments—which is to say, I agree with them. They begin with the dispute between “insurrectionist anarchism” and “mass anarchism” (I prefer “mass struggle anarchism”). The question is whether individuals or small groups should refuse to “wait” for mass struggles and should engage in “propaganda by the deed” to hopefully inspire the people to rise up. Or whether anarchists should participate in the lives and struggles of workers and others, to build mass movements and organizations, which may eventually erupt in mass uprisings (popular insurrections) This is the approach they recommend. They note that insurrectionism has a long history in anarchism, but overall has been a minority tendency.

From Bakunin on, the revolutionary anarchists have aimed for a mass working class base in the radical union movement of syndicalism. Within syndicalism, there have been a variety of political orientations, including those who were explicitly anarchist (anarcho-syndicalism) and those who were not explicitly anarchist (revolutionary syndicalism) and even some who were explicitly Marxist and anti-anarchist (Daniel De Leon). The last two types contributed to the overall syndicalist movement and therefore the authors regard them as part of the broad anarchist tradition. (Including explicit Marxists who denounced anarchism, such as the authoritarian and sectarian De Leon, as part of the anarchist tradition also seems quirky to me, although the key point is correct: they contributed to the broader syndicalist movement.)

They review disputes among anarchist syndicalists as to whether to work inside existing (bureaucratic-conservative) unions, whether to create only revolutionary unions, or whether to only build rank-and-file groupings outside the union structures. Other union issues are covered. They conclude, “A tactic cannot be made into a principle; different conditions merit different tactics” (p. 233). This is an eminently sensible approach.

Another issue is whether anarchists should take a dual-organizational strategy, that is, build organizations of anarchists around common programs while working in broader organizations and movements, such as unions and community organizations. This is opposed to the anti-organizationalist approach of those who only want local groups in loose networks or those syndicalists who only sought to build unions. They review the controversies around the dual-organizationalist Platform. They claim that the idea of a specifically anarchist organization goes back to Bakunin and is not a new concept.

They discuss the relationship of working class anarchism and syndicalism to non-class issues (which overlap with class). This includes a review of the way in which syndicalists have worked to build community-based struggles around housing and culture. That is part of the overall approach of building counterculture and counterpower institutions to oppose capitalism, preparatory to revolution. (This is what Gramsci called the struggle over “hegemony”). They discuss the class struggle of peasants. While not as frequently anarchist as workers’ struggles, peasants have turned to anarchism in several heroic rebellions. In relation to women’s liberation, anarchists have, they point out, historically excellent theoretical positions. But their practice has often fallen sadly short of what it should be—although there are significant examples of anarchist women’s struggles.

Attitudes toward oppressed nations and races are highly conflicted among anarchists. All anarchists are against imperialism, national oppression, and white supremacy. But many anarchists oppose national liberation as a concept, on the grounds that it leads to new states and new ruling classes—as nationalists advocate but which anarchists are rightly opposed to. After reviewing the various opinions, Schmidt and van der Walt conclude that anarchists should “…participate in national liberation struggles in order to shape them, win the battle of ideas, [and] displace nationalism with a politics of national liberation through class struggle…” (p. 310). They cite the many cases where anarchists have participated in wars of national liberation, from Makhno’s Ukraine to Korea and elsewhere.

Anarchists’ View of Marxism

Although an anarchist, I been deeply influenced by Marxism, both libertarian-autonomist Marxism and dissident Trotskyism. So I was interested in how they discussed the interaction between anarchism and Marxism. Fundamentally they get it right. They acknowledge that both anarchism and Marxism come out of the same working class, socialist, movement. Both trends have the goals of a stateless, classless, society without oppression, to be achieved by international revolution of the working class and other oppressed people. From Bakunin onwards, many anarchists have valued Marx’s economics and his broader historical materialism. As mentioned, the authors recognize that some Marxists made contributions to syndicalism. They also note that there has been an antistatist minority trend within Marxism which has been neither Leninist nor social democratic. It has interpreted Marxism as almost the same as class-struggle anarchism. They cite the council communists, but could have also cited William Morris, the Johnson-Forest Tendency, and more recent autonomous Marxists. So it is possible to hold at least some of Marx’s views and still have an antiauthoritarian politics

They also raise the anarchist criticisms of Marxism. They refer to Marx’s determinism, which has often been interpreted in a mechanical way. Marx was a centralist, as opposed to anarchism’s decentralized federalism. While both Marx and Bakunin advocated unions (unlike Proudhon), Marx subordinated them to building working class political parties to run in elections, contrary to anarchism’s anti-electoralism. (This was the main practical issue in dispute between Marx and Bakunin in the First International; surely the verdict of history is on the side of the anarchists.) Marx advocated a transitional state after the revolution. While a small minority of Marxists have been libertarian, the mainstream of Marxism has been overwhelmingly either pro-imperialist social democratic or Marxist-Leninist totalitarian. Whatever its virtues, this is what Marxism, in the main, led to. So, Marxism has useful aspects for anarchists but is not something to be simply integrated with anarchism. “There are ambiguities and contradictions in Marx’s thought, which can be interpreted as ‘two Marxisms’…” (p. 93).

However, in a number of topics the authors make mistakes about Marxism, a subject which they do not know as well as they know anarchism (but few Marxists know much about anarchism!). For example, Marx did not think that commodity prices were directly due to the labor-time invested in the commodity (its value). He thought that the relation between labor-time values and prices was indirect and complicated (what has been called the “transformation problem”; Mattick, 1969). Marx did not believe in a specific “strategy of the dictatorship of the proletariat” (p. 99) to create a state ruled by a centralized party. To Marx, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (writing in a time when “dictatorship” had a different meaning than today) meant neither more nor less than the rule of the working class as a class, such as in the radically-democratic Paris Commune (Draper, 187; Price, 2007). There are other issues where their discussion is less than fully accurate (as when considering Marx’s views on the peasants; Draper; 1978).

One problem with the authors understanding of Marx is that they tend to merge together the views of Marx, Kautsky, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, into one ideology, called “classical Marxism.” However the continuity between Marx’s Marxism and Mao’s Marxism, while real, is limited and distorted. Despite his defects, Marx did not at all aim for the murderous totalitarian state capitalism of Soviet Russia or Communist China. But, to repeat, overall the authors have a correct appreciation of the relation of Marxism to anarchism.

The lack of a background in Marxism does become a problem in various ways. For example, when discussing the differences between insurrectionalist anarchism and mass anarchism, they state that insurrectionalism is “impossibilist,” meaning that it regards the struggle for reforms as futile. But , they say, mass anarchism is “possibilist, believing that it is both possible and desirable to force concessions from the ruling classes” (p. 124). This prepares the way for a social revolution.

This is a valuable point, but it leaves something out. We are now in the epoch of imperialism and capitalist decline. The tendency of the falling rate of profit and the trend toward monopoly have caused a trend toward stagnation, which capital has fought by expanding fictitious profits, looting the environment, and attacking the working class. This has been apparent again since about 1970, with the end of the post-World War II apparent prosperity, and is now clearer than ever. Reforms and concessions can still be forced from the ruling class, yes, but it is becoming harder and harder over time, as the crisis deepens. Mass struggle anarchists must participate with the workers in fighting for even the most limited of benefits. But we should also warn them that attacks will worsen and that a revolution is needed if we are to avoid a new Great Depression, fascism, nuclear war, and ecological catastrophe. In the current period, we are possibilist in only a limited sense.

I have touched on only some of the topics raised by the authors. Overall this book is a brilliant and complex discussion of what class-struggle revolutionary anarchism—the broad anarchist tradition—really is and what it may yet become. I look forward to volume 2.


References


Draper, Hal (1978). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution; Vol. 2: The Politics of Social Classes. NY, NY: Monthly Review.

Draper, Hal (1987). The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” from Marx to Lenin. NY, NY: Monthly Review.

Mattick, Paul (1969). Marx and Keynes; The Limits of the Mixed Economy. Boston, MA: Porter Sargent.

Price, Wayne (2007). The Abolition of the State: Anarchist and Marxist Perspectives. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.

Van der Walt, Lucien, & Schmidt, Michael (2009). Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism; Counterpower: Volume 1. Oakland CA: Ak Press.

Based on a review written for Social Anarchism.

author by Anarchopublication date Fri Mar 04, 2011 17:38Report this post to the editors

A good review of a good book. I quite agree about Proudhon, as I discuss in my review of the book (which was in Freedom):

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/review-of-black-...flame

But I have to discuss this:

'To Marx, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (writing in a time when “dictatorship” had a different meaning than today) meant neither more nor less than the rule of the working class as a class, such as in the radically-democratic Paris Commune (Draper, 187; Price, 2007).'

First, yes, "dictatorship" did have a different meaning but the proletariat (as Marx, at times, admitted) was a MINORITY class (and a minority of the working classes) in all countries bar the UK. To call for the rule of the proletariat in, say, France in 1871 meant the rule of a minority over the majority (peasants, artisans). This was a core aspect of Bakunin's critique of Marx:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/review-bakunins-...archy

Secondly, the Paris Commune was heavily influenced by Proudhon's ideas. A Proudhonist wrote the manifesto Marx referenced (but did not actually quote) in "The Civil War in France." The ideas of mandating and recalling delegates was raised by Proudhon during the 1848 revolution. The vision of a self-managed socio-economic federation raised by the Commune, and praised by Marx, was just repeating Proudhon's ideas:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/pjproudhon/introduction....mmune

Which means to praise the commune but dismiss Proudhon (as Marx and Draper did) is just silly.

In reality, of course, rather than rule by the working class as a class, the Commune was based on the working class electing people to govern in its name. This, again, was part of Bakunin's critique of Marx -- namely that he (and the likes of Draper) confused the two and so advocated power to the party rather than to the working class.

This also informed anarchist critiques of the Commune, as I discuss here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/the-paris-commun...chism

Iain

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk
author by Waynepublication date Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:14Report this post to the editors

In response to Iain:

I think we are generally in agreement on the question of labelling Proudhon. However, the issue comes down to whether to call Proudhon an early "anarchist" (Iain) or a "ibertarian" who influenced early anarchists (Black Flame). This is not an interesting distinction, as far as I am concerned.

The Paris Commune was influenced by Proudhonian decentralist-federalism, rather than Marx's concept of the state (at least the concept which he held up until the Commune). But this does not mean simply that Proudhon was right and Marx was wrong. The Commune was consistent with Marx's program of a working class revolution, as opposed to Proudohon's graduallist, alternate-institutionalist, reformist strategy. So far as this goes, anarchists after the Commune (Bakunin, etc.) agreed with Maris revoutionary working class strategy, not Proudhon's, and for good reason.

But it is not true, during the Commune, that Marx "advocated power to the party rather than to the working class." There was no party in existence during the Commune for Marx to advocate power to..

Incidently, according to Draper, at the very end of the Commune, a majority of the communal government (Blanquists and radical jacobins) voted fo replace the government with a smaller, dictatorial, Committee of Public Safety. The only ones who voted against this move were the Prouhonians and the Marxists! But it came to nothing since the Commune was attacked at this time.

Leaving aside the use of the term "dictatorship", was it authoritarian of Marx to advocate the rule of the proletariat (indusrial working class and rural employees), when in all countries besides Britain they were a minority? Marx and Engels always advocated that the workers demcratically win over the peasants, by means of pro-peasant policies and programs. Otherwise, they did not think that the workers could take power or hold it. However, they saw the urban and rural workers as providing leadership to the peasants (who were not collectivists, due to their living conditions, but were small businesspeople, wanting mostly to manage their own farms as businesses). They believed that paseants could only be consissely revolutionary if led by a progressive urban class. The experience of the 20th century, of peasant-based revolutions led by authoritarian Marxists and nationalists originally from the cities, supports this supposition. Black Flame also notes that anarchism mostly comes out of the proletarian movement and has only rarely been rooted in peasant movements.

author by Lucien van der Waltpublication date Sat Mar 05, 2011 18:08Report this post to the editors

Hi Wayne

Thanks for all the positive comments, and for what I think is a fair summary of the book. In the same spirit of comradely engagement, I'd like to perhaps mention two areas where I disagree with your assessment. Again, I stress that I do this in an open spirit; like you, I despise petty squabbling, in favour of clear (and clarifying) debate.

a) on labels and 'sectarian' issues: I agree labels can be a bit tricky, but I don't really agree that insisting that anarchism = class struggle anarchism 'seems' 'pointless,' raises 'a terminological dispute which makes us look sectarian.'

We defined anarchism historically, and as accurately as possible. Without doing this, it is simply impossible to do a general history and analysis of anarchism (and syndicalism); this is why works like that of Peter Marshall tend to ramble, to have huge gaps and peculiar choices (in his case, including both Thatcher and Che in his history of anarchism...). To change the definition would radically change the book (and the book to follow).

I agree, of course, that the approach will offend some people, but I'd also insist that accuracy and terminology cannot (and should not) be shaped by current day political considerations (or by the confusion in the ‘anarchist’ milieu). That, I think that is tending a bit towards unprincipled opportunism. That is obviously not your intention, but I think it’s the logical consequence of your suggestion.

Conversely, I really don't think using the ‘anarchist’ label in a particular way prevents a discussion and a serious debate with people with whom anarchists disagree. In the English-speaking milieu, levels of debate are often extremely poor (I mean debate, not rants, labeling, etc.) and this is partly due to the fuzziness of many concepts deployed. It is difficult to debate if there is no clarity on what is being debated in the first place.

b) on Marxism: as the book states, there are tensions in Marx's own thought, and there are radically democratic elements, and there are also radically democratic traditions of Marxism e.g. Councilism.

However, to claim, as bluntly as you do, that 'Marx did not believe in a specific “strategy of the dictatorship of the proletariat” (p. 99) to create a state ruled by a centralized party,' as he merely meant 'the rule of the working class as a class, such as in the radically-democratic Paris Commune' is not accurate.

That is a very one-sided reading of Marx but its a-historical and misleading; it relies on a single text as the definitive statement of Marx's views and praxis, and ignores a host of materials that say something quite different. Many of these are cited in ‘Black Flame,’ which does not rely on Lenin et al to paint the picture of Marxism.

On numerous occasions, Marx specifically called for precisely a 'state ruled by a centralized party' (‘Black Flame,’ p. 99), not least in the resolutions he forced through the rigged Hague Congress of the IWMA in 1872 after trying to 'expel' the anarchists. That is, the very year after he wrote 'The Civil War', he insisted that 'the proletariat can only act as a class by turning itself into a political party', aimed at the 'conquest of state power', with a 'proletarian dictatorship' based upon ‘centralisation' and 'force' (Hans Gerth, ed., 'The First International: Minutes of the Hague Conference of 1872', Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1958, pp. 216-17, 285-86).

This was quite in line with the ‘Communist Manifesto’ – which no one would dispute is the canonical Marxist document – which proposes as ‘generally applicable’ the following measures: ‘abolition of private property in land’, a ‘heavy progressive or graduated income tax’, ‘centralisation of credit in the hands of the state’, ‘centralisation of all means of communication and transport in the hands of the state’, ‘factories and instruments of production owned by the state’, ‘industrial armies, especially for agriculture.’ Moreover, the Marxists ‘always and everywhere represent the interests’ of the working class, because they ‘understand the line of march’ better than ‘the great mass’ (see Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1954, Henry Regnery, pp. 40, 55-56).

The overall outline of socialism in 'The Civil War' was, moreover, never seriously proposed or implemented by the groups that Marx set up, going back to the Communist League, and carrying through to the German SDP, nor the Labour and Socialist International (after the anarchists were expelled) nor the Communist International. Nor was it the policy of any mass Marxist party or formation in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries.

As you say, 'Despite his defects, Marx did not at all aim for the murderous totalitarian state capitalism of Soviet Russia or Communist China': we agree, and in fact say pretty much this on p. 24: 'The creation of the gulag system in the USSR, which placed tens of millions into concentration camps based on forced labour, was an integral part of the Soviet system, but was probably not part of Marx’s plan. The harsh circumstances under which the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the USSR took place obviously also left a profound imprint. The features of the USSR and the later Marxist regimes cannot, then, simply be reduced to Marxist politics.'

That does not, however, exonerate Marx himself, because the predominant element in his thought, his movement and (though we do not go into this third part in ‘Black Flame’), his personal political behaviour (e.g. the struggle against Weitling, Proudhon, Bakunin, his role on the IWMA etc.) was centralist and authoritarian. Just as we need to discuss anarchism (and syndicalism) historically, we need to discuss Marxism historically; just as we cannot reduce a history of Christianity to a study of the original gospels, but must look at its history, and which interpretations mattered historically, we must judge Marxism historically.

In no sense can the history of Marxism be delinked from, say, Communism, and in no way can Marx and the Marxist mainstream's stress on 'a highly centralized state, headed by a communist party, controlling labour and the other forces of production and claiming to be the sole repository of “scientific” truth,’ be sharply divorced from the ‘evolution of Marxism in the twentieth century into an ideology of dictatorship after dictatorship' (‘Black Flame,’ pp. 24-25).
The fact is that 'The history of Marxism in the third of the world once ruled by Marxist regimes is a part—the major part—of the history of Marxism' (p. 25). When we are discussing Marxism, we are not discussing hypothetical Marxisms that could have been, but an actual movement.

I agree with your insistence on breaking with the crude understanding of Marxism so common in the anarchist milieu, but equally, I cannot that Marx is basically radical-democrat maligned by the misreadings of posterity.

Comradely
Lucien

PS. you insist that 'Marx did not think that commodity prices were directly due to the labor-time invested in the commodity (its value)' because he purportedly 'thought that the relation between labor-time values and prices was indirect and complicated (what has been called the ‘transformation problem.’).’

'Black Flame's' formulations are rather more qualified: that 'Marx, like Proudhon, used a labour theory of value; he argued that only living labour created new value, and that value underpinned prices. All things being equal, and given the operation of a competitive market system that equalised prices for given commodities, the price of a commodity must correspond closely to the “socially necessary” or average labour time used to produce it... Marx spoke of the exchange values of commodities, set in production by labour time, as determining prices' (p. 86). Moreover, 'Marx admitted that prices could vary somewhat according to supply and demand ...' (p. 89).

I think this is a fair summary of Marx. In 'Value, Price and Profit' chapter 2 Marx states that, in a situation of market equilibrium, market prices correspond to 'natural prices,' which are 'determined by the respective quantities of labor required for their production.' In 'Capital' III, chapter 9, Marx insists that prices are still obtained from values, but this 'general law' only applies at the level of combined capital in given spheres of production (as alluded to 'Black Flame' p. 88).

author by Anarchopublication date Sun Mar 06, 2011 04:52Report this post to the editors

"The Paris Commune was influenced by Proudhonian decentralist-federalism, rather than Marx's concept of the state (at least the concept which he held up until the Commune)."

Immediately after the Commune, Marx argued that workers could introduce socialism by voting. So much for the argument that the Commune opened his eyes on the necessity of "smashing the state", as Marxists usually argue. Interestingly, someone asked Engels what he meant by his comments in "The Civil War In France" and he replied:

"It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administrative centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes: whereas all bourgeois republicans since 1848 inveighed against this machinery so long as they were in the opposition, but once they were in the government they took it over without altering it and used it partly against the reaction but still more against the proletariat." [Collected Works, vol. 47, p. 74]

There is substantial evidence that the Commune did not really transform his concept of the state, other that increase his awareness that the state machine (in Europe) needed to be (as Engels said) "refashioned" once it had been captured by the working class (by election, or "political action"). I discuss this here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secH3.html#sech310

"But this does not mean simply that Proudhon was right and Marx was wrong."

In terms of a vision of socialism as a federation of self-managed communes based on mandated and recallable delegates, yes it does! Nothing like that can be found in Marx -- as Bakunin noted.

"The Commune was consistent with Marx's program of a working class revolution, as opposed to Proudohon's graduallist, alternate-institutionalist, reformist strategy."

The ONLY aspect of the Commune consistent with Marx's ideas was that they utilised universal suffrage in elections in the pre-existing town-hall elections. He also argued consistently that the French should NOT rise in insurrection but wait until elections to exercise their "political power". The actual performance of the Commune council showed that representative governments could not handle the problems facing a social revolution. I discuss both of these here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/the-paris-commun...chism

"So far as this goes, anarchists after the Commune (Bakunin, etc.) agreed with Maris revoutionary working class strategy, not Proudhon's, and for good reason."

Marx, as noted, argued for "political action" after the Commune and imposed that on the IWMA. Anarchists rejected that "class strategy" -- and for good reason! Instead they continued Proudhon's anti-political strategy but within the context of revolutionary unionism (as they had before it). Proudhon's refromist strategy was rejected, but the idea of a social movement outside of bourgeois institutions was continued.

"But it is not true, during the Commune, that Marx 'advocated power to the party rather than to the working class.' There was no party in existence during the Commune for Marx to advocate power to.."

I did not suggest he did -- I stated that Bakunin argued that Marx sought party power (which he did). During the Commune Marx remained silent.

"Incidently, according to Draper, at the very end of the Commune, a majority of the communal government (Blanquists and radical jacobins) voted fo replace the government with a smaller, dictatorial, Committee of Public Safety. The only ones who voted against this move were the Prouhonians and the Marxists! But it came to nothing since the Commune was attacked at this time."

There was ONE Marxist in the Commune (Draper, I think, doubles this number). His impact cannot be equated with the Mutualists. Interestingly, Draper denounced Proudhon for opposing an elected executive power (this proved he was a want-to-be dictator) while in the same book praises the Communards for not having an executive power (this proves how democratic they were)! He really was a hypocrit. I discuss this here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/hal-draper-numpt...-deux

"Leaving aside the use of the term "dictatorship", was it authoritarian of Marx to advocate the rule of the proletariat (indusrial working class and rural employees), when in all countries besides Britain they were a minority? Marx and Engels always advocated that the workers demcratically win over the peasants, by means of pro-peasant policies and programs. Otherwise, they did not think that the workers could take power or hold it."

The point is that they argued for the dictatorship of the proletariat when that class was a MINORITY of the working masses. Being nice to the peasantry does not change the matter that they were not meant to be in power. And as the example of the Russian Revolution shows, marginalising the peasantry in a country where they are the majority is doomed to failure. Lenin wished to "win over the peasants" but that was hard to do when they deliberately skewed representation in favour of the proletariat.

"However, they saw the urban and rural workers as providing leadership to the peasants (who were not collectivists, due to their living conditions, but were small businesspeople, wanting mostly to manage their own farms as businesses). They believed that paseants could only be consissely revolutionary if led by a progressive urban class."

Being nice to the peasants does not stop the fact that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" explicitly excludes them from having any sort of say over a social revolution! And Bakunin argued that the urban workers would lead the peasants, but he did not explicitly deny them a say in their revolution by suggesting a dictatorship of the proletariat...

"The experience of the 20th century, of peasant-based revolutions led by authoritarian Marxists and nationalists originally from the cities, supports this supposition."

And the disaster of the Russian Revolution supports Bakunin's critique.

H.1.1 What was Bakunin's critique of Marxism?
http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secH1.html#sech11

Suffice to say, Marx did NOT argue for a dictatorship of the working masses. He argued explicitly and repeatedly for the "dictatorship of the proletariat." He also acknowledged that outside of the UK, the proletariat was a minority of the working classes. How you "democratically" win over the peasantry when you explicitly deny them any real say in a revolution was not explained.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk
author by Anarchopublication date Mon Mar 07, 2011 03:58Report this post to the editors

If Draper states something, always question it -- he was a complete hack...

Draper in his usual distorting way states that "the bulk of the Minority was formed of members of the International and the Proudhonists" ("Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution", vol. III, p. 277) Except the bulk of the International in Paris WERE "the Proudhonists" and vice versa! To put an"and" in there creates a completely false division between Internationalists and Proudhonists -- as intended.

He claims there was "another clear correlation" in that "a few men in the leadership who had a relationship of sorts with Marx" sided with the Minority. He points to Serailler and states Frankel "supported the Minority." (p. 277)

Not quite.

While Serailler (a friend of Marx) voted against the committe, Leo Frankel voted for it: "I do not wish to give cause for insinuations against my Revolutionary Socialist opinions" ("The Communards of Paris, 1871", p. 92) He did subsequently (10 days later) put his name to the declaration of the Minority.

In terms of who voted for the Committee of Public Safety, there is NO correlation as Draper asserts. One associate of Marx voted for it, one against. The one who voted against DID, later, change his mind -- when it no longer mattered -- and sided with the libertarians. Courbet, echoing his friend Proudhon in 1848, voted
against: "Let is use the terms suggested to us by our own Revolution." ("The Communards of Paris, 1871", p. 93) Draper, as per his usual techniques, tries to get Varlin (whom he admits to being a Proudhionist) into the Marxist camp, proclaiming he "is sometimes [by whom?] described as a semi-Marxist." (p. 278)

Draper states that the "best and most advanced socialists in the Commune supported the Minority" (p. 278) -- in reality, "the best and most advanced socialists" WERE the Minority, in the main the Mutualists. The Marxists simply followed their lead -- literally, in the case of Frankel who joined them after 10 days. And, of course,
Marx praised the very obvious Proudhonist ideas raised by the Commune -- ironic, really, that Marx took over completely Proudhon's ideas and, in so doing, ensured his star rose!

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk
author by Anarchopublication date Mon Mar 07, 2011 04:10Report this post to the editors

"That is a very one-sided reading of Marx but its a-historical and misleading; it relies on a single text as the definitive statement of Marx's views and praxis, and ignores a host of materials that say something quite different."

This is very true -- "The Civil War in France" is mostly reporting what had happened in Paris. It is his most libertarian work because he was describing a libertarian-influenced revolt. The declaration to the French People he mentions but does not quote was written by a Proudhonist. All that stuff about mandates and recall, not having an executive, federations of communes, workers' associations is all from Proudhon -- from Proudhon's works during the 1848 revolution.

In terms of Marx, well, none of this can be found before the Paris Commune.

I should also note that Bakunin had also raised these ideas before the Revolution as well, because he too was influenced by Proudhon.

"The overall outline of socialism in 'The Civil War' was, moreover, never seriously proposed or implemented by the groups that Marx set up, going back to the Communist League, and carrying through to the German SDP"

Very true -- the revolutionary anarchists followed the mutualists in rejecting tthe "Political Action" Marx imposed on the IWMA. And this was aimed at using voting to get seats in national assemblies -- something Engels explicitly argued equalled political power for the working class. In this he echoed Marx, who said that universal suffrage equalled political power for the working class where that class was in the majority.

Indeed, within a few months of the Commune Marx said that workers could vote socialism in -- a position he reiterated the following year.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk
author by Waynepublication date Tue Mar 08, 2011 06:11Report this post to the editors

Lucien (co-author of Black Flame) and Iain (Anarcho) have written lengthy comments on my book review. Over the years I have learned much from both of them, but it would take too long to write detailed responses to each. Instead I will comment on two issues.

First, what did Marx mean by the "dictatorship of the proletariat?" Hal Draper has researched every goddamned incidence when Marx or Engels used the phrase (in "Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution" vol III; summarized in the smaller book which is cited in my review). (Note that they did not use the phrase in The Communist Manifessto or in The Civil War in France, on the Paris Commune.) I think he shows pretty clearly that Marx and Engels used the phrase only as a synonym for "the class rule of the working class" (or "the ascendency of...", or "the domination of...", or the hegemony of...", etc.). This was common at the time. They did have ideas about what workers' rule would look like, but these ideas (agree or disagree with them as we like) are not summed up in the phrase "dictaborship of the proletariat." Almost every one of their followers used a different, later, meaning, the one we ascribe to Lenin. The single exception was Rosa Luxemburg, who did use the "dictatorshpi of the proletariat" to mean the democratic rule of the whole working class--Marx's original meaning.

I do not deny that Marx was a centralist--in the sense of most European democrats of the time, who advocated overthrowing the feudal divisions of Europe and creating large nations run from central cities by single parliaments (unlike in the US where the left bourgeois-democrats were Jeffersonian decentralist-federalists). Marx was not an anarchist! But I am denying that Marx advocated a Leninist strategy of a minority, vanguardist,, supercentralized party.

Lucien writes, "On numerous occasions, Marx specifically called for precisely a 'state ruled by a centralized party' (‘Black Flame,’ p. 99)." However, p. 99 of BF is filled with quotes from Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao--not Marx. Then he quotes Marx advocating that the proletariat should act as a class and turn itself into a party to conquer power for the working class. That is, the whole class should organize itself into a class-wide party so that the whole class can take over the state. This is not anarchism, but neither is it an advocacy of a minority vanguard party as per Lenin, Trotsky, or Mao.

Iain argues another point: if the workers (industrial and rural waged employees) rule, and are a minority, does not this mean a dictatorship over the peasant (etc.) majority? He notes, "Marx did NOT argue for a dictatorship of the working masses" but of the proletariat. True, Marx had a class analysis and orientation, with which I agree. Society cannot be maintained by "the working masses" (meaning two or more classes at the same time) or by "the people." Societies are led by one or another class. Widespread popular democracy is possible provided that one class, a part of the masses, leads. There is no such thing as a classless democracy.

For example, in the US, we have the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie," the rule of a minority class. We also have a political democracy, the limited democracy of a bourgois republic (much freer than fascism). It is both a capitalist democracy and a capitalist dictatorship. The terms do not contradict each other in this context.

Suppose we have a revolution and replace the state with a federation of councils, the commune of communes. All the working people (at least) would participate politically. It would be the fullest possible democracy ever. But so long as classes survive, during and immediately after the revolution, the working class would be the leading class (majority or minority is not important). The small farmers, small businesspeople, and varioius middle sectors would not be coerced but would be won over to the program and policies of the proletariat. I would not use the term "dictatorship of the proletariat," beause the phrase is archaic and hopelessly tied to the ideology of state capitalism by now. Nor do I believe in a "workers' state" or "transitional state." But I believe in a class analysis and program.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Mar 08, 2011 07:44Report this post to the editors

[Correction: When I wrote,"There is no such thing as a classless democracy," above, I meant "so long as there remain classes," which should be apparent from the rest of what I wrote.]

Secondly, Lucien defends his interpretation of Marx's derivation of commoditiy prices from values (socially-necessary labor time). In itself, this is not a subject of wide interest for anarchists. But it lays the basis for the theory of the tendency of capitalist profits to fall, for monopolization and stagnation to increase, and for the existence of an epoch of capitalist decline. This relates to the last topic I raised in my review, which claims that there are limits on how "possibilist" the revolutionary progam can be.

Lucien and van der Walt rely too much on Value Price and Profit, Marx's little pamphlet. It is not as authoritative as is vol. III of Capital. If their interpretation was correct, then why did so many Marxist economists spend so much time on the "transformation problem" (of values into prices)? Sure Marx based himself on the labor theory of value (which he did not have to get from Proudhon, becasue it was already raised by every bourgeois political economist--Smith and Ricardo--and socialist thinker for some time). But he knew that commoditiy values were greatly distorted by many factors when they appeared as prices, such as the average rate of profit. However, Marx saw the totality of prices as equal to the totality of values, the totalty of profits (and rent, etc.) as equal to the totality of surplus value, and the trend toward the falling rate of profit being based on the relationship between these two totals. He did not really care about actual prices of commodities, which he analyzed in a most abstract and simplified fashion only to get to the overall systemic issues.

However I think I agree on the key points with Black Flag, and maybe with Iain, that there are useful and nonuseful (for anarchists) aspects kof Marx's Marxism, and that the nonuseful aspects (determinism, centralism, etc.) played a role in the eventual development of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism.

author by Lucien van der Waltpublication date Thu Mar 10, 2011 17:08Report this post to the editors

Wayne, as always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and comradely style. But I do not agree with your claims regarding Marx and the "dictatorship of the proletariat" (DOP).

There is a direct link between the Marxist regimes, and the thought of Marx.

Admittedly, there are "many tensions and ambiguities in Marx’s thought," including democratic elements, but, equally, there is a very clear, central "authoritarian and statist" thrust as well ("Black Flame," p. 24).

Draper placed the most democratic, feel-good spin on Marx's authoritarian and statist elements, but that does not make them vanish; they can't be vanished by waving Draper. And whatever Draper may have thought, the fact is that 99% of Marxists did not (and do not) agree with him, and there are libraries of Marxist literature to this effect. These views - this reading of Marx's work - is by the way very much in line with what Bakunin viewed as the core project of Marxism (admittedly Bakunin did not read Draper, but he knew and directly debated, both formally and informally, with Marx and Engels).

Nor is Draper's scholarship unimpeachable, as his calumnies against Bakunin, his mispresentation of the Commune, his presentation of Lenin as a radical democrat, his defence of Trotsky's terrorism against the popular classes etc., all attest.

Why exactly we should take Draper's views on the real meaning of "every goddamned incidence" of Marx's views on the DOP as more accurate than, for example, Lenin's views on the exact same matter? Or frankly, than the views on the matter of the historic anarchist tradition, which competed with and debated Marxist mass movements for well over a century?

Draper, then, simply cannot be taken as the authoritative source on all things regarding Marx and the DOP; he does not have that status or recognition among most Marxists.

Secondly, in a world where the history of Marxism rested on Draper's idiosyncratic views, that history would perhaps be very different to what it was; however, we are not dealing in hypotheticals.

Every single Marxist regime, ever, has been a dictatorship; every single major Marxist party, ever, either renounced Marxism for social democracy, or, remaining revolutionary, acted as apologists for dictatorships (that includes all Communists and Trotskyists, including the ISO, which still exonerates the Lenin-Trotsky period - on the same lines as Draper), or actually headed brutal dictatorships.

Debating what Marx "really meant” is vastly less important than what Marxism was (and is) (although of course it fits very well with the almost theological culture of Marx studies, where Marx is always assumed to be right, and where debates are settled by quote swapping). But as I said before, you don't judge Christianity on the basis of the gospels alone.

Marxism, too, must be judged by history; that requires an assessment of its record, rather than on the basis of Draper's opinions.

Thirdly, Wayne, as your own analysis admits, there are elements in Marx's writings that played a role in the Marxist regimes: "there are useful and nonuseful (for anarchists) aspects of Marx's Marxism, and that the nonuseful aspects (determinism, centralism, etc.) played a role in the eventual development of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism."

I agree: there is direct link between "Marx's Marxism," and "Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism." Therefore we cannot "exonerate classical Marxism from a good deal of responsibility for the oppression and inequities of the old East bloc" ("Black Flame", p. 24)

At the same time, you downplay this link, claiming that (for instance) Marx's resolutions in the IWMA were really about "advocating that the proletariat should act as a class and turn itself into a party to conquer power for the working class. That is, the whole class should organize itself into a class-wide party so that the whole class can take over the state." Also, you state the DOP meant would "mean the democratic rule of the whole working class--Marx's original meaning."

Those are two very different claims. A "party" with mass "class-wide" support acting to "take over the state" is very common (PT in Brazil, ANC in South Africa, SDP in Germany ..) , but that is something quite different to "the democratic rule of the whole working class". Even the Bolsheviks, arch-vanguardists as they were, actively sought mass support, despite the fact that they had no interest in "the democratic rule of the whole working class."

The only way you can reconcile these two propositions - a mass party, democratic rule - is to assume that Marx collapses class and party, and that he envisaged a state form in which there is literal "democratic rule" by the "whole" working class.

Do we find either position in Marx?

On the first (collapse of class and party): Marx and Engels clearly reject such a collapse. The "Manifesto" distinguishes "proletarians and communists", with the latter happily understanding "the line of march" better than "the great mass". This is not a "class-wide party," but merely "the most advanced and resolute section" of the many "working class parties" to be found in "every country" (Marx and Engels, "The Communist Manifesto", 1954, Henry Regnery, p. 40).

The party is only identical to the class in the indirect (and vanguardist) sense that it somehow will "always and everywhere represent the interests" of the working class (no matter what "the great mass" may think) (p. 40). The corollary is that all other socialists are non-proletarian: as explained at length in chapter III, they are variously "feudal," "reactionary," "petty bourgeois," and "bourgeois" (pp. 58-78).

This is a clear example of the reasoning later identified with Leninist regimes: Mensheviks, anarchists, syndicalists etc. are by definition ‘bourgeois’ (Lenin, ‘Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government,’ in ‘Selected Works in Three Volumes’, p. 599), and party dictatorship is by definition ‘the dictatorship of the class’ (Trotsky, ‘Challenge of the Left Opposition, 1923-1925’, Pathfinder, 1975, p. 161).

Only the second (a state form enabling actual "democratic rule" by the "whole" working class): Marx and Engels do not argue this. The communist party's aim is "the same as that of all the other proletarian parties … conquest of political power by the proletariat" (ibid). The aim is "the same" i.e. the party winning state power for the class, not the literal "democratic rule of the whole working class."

And what would the state form be? It would be a centralized under party control, where only one party will "always and everywhere" represent the class.

Wayne suggests that Marx advocated "centralism" only as measure for "overthrowing the feudal divisions of Europe and creating large nations run from central cities by single parliaments." On the contrary: Marx and Engels insisted that economic centralization, including of labour control through "industrial armies," would be "generally applicable" in precisely "the most advanced countries’ as part of the socialist (not the bourgeois-democratic) project (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1954, Henry Regnery, p. 55). (Wayne suggests that "Black Flame" makes it case "with quotes from Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao--not Marx." Not at all: the views by Marx and Engels mentioned here may all be found in the book (e.g. pp. 24, 98, 101).

A ruling party that knows alone knows the true interests of the "great mass"; the claim that all rivals are anti-proletarian; the stress on the centralised state, including nationalisation and "industrial armies": these are the elements of "Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism," and they are all easily found in the "Manifesto."

author by Lucien van der Waltpublication date Thu Mar 10, 2011 23:14Report this post to the editors

Wayne says: "Lucien defends his interpretation of Marx's derivation of commodity prices from values (socially-necessary labor time)" but his account relies "too much on Value Price and Profit, Marx's little pamphlet. It is not as authoritative as is vol. III of Capital."

I did quote vol III in my response, but to be quite clear: chapter 9 of Capital III is not a retreat from the basic approach that natural prices reflect average labour time: "If the labor time required for the production of these commodities is reduced, prices fall; if it is increased, prices rise, other circumstances remaining the same" (Capital III, chp 9). The "assumption that the commodities of the various spheres of production are sold at their value implies, of course, only that their value is the center of gravity around which prices fluctuate, and around which their rise and fall tends to an equilibrium" (ditto). The problem Marx tackles here is that while prices correspond to values, market prices for given commodities are average prices, rather than prices set by the specific amount of labour time embodied into commodities by different capitals. If such a proposition was granted, the least efficient capitals would be the most profitable, and there would no tendency for a rising organic composition of capital etc.

Wayne adds: Marx "knew that commodity values were greatly distorted by many factors when they appeared as prices, such as the average rate of profit."

Of course, but that is not a refutation of "Black Flame." it merely means there is a true price that is "distorted" in some situations. Thus, vol III: "... their value is the center of gravity around which prices fluctuate" , and around which their rise and fall tends to an equilibrium." What is the true price? Labour time is materialised in commodities as the basis of their exchange value and money-price (meaning average prices). Which is pretty much what "Black Flame" states, "All things being equal, and given the operation of a competitive market system that equalised prices for given commodities, the price of a commodity must correspond closely to the 'socially necessary' or average labour time used to produce it." (p. 86)

Wayne continues: “If their interpretation was correct, then why did so many Marxist economists spend so much time on the 'transformation problem' (of values into prices)?"

The fact that there is a "transformation problem" that preoccupies these economists is not a refutation of the arguments made in "Black Flame." It is simply that there is supposedly a "problem" of finding a general rule to transform the "values" of commodities (based on labour according to his labour theory of value) into the "competitive prices" of the marketplace. Marx's explanation has been subject to various empirical and theoretical critiques. Hence later work by Itoh, Shaik, Cockshot etc. which tries to fix it (or defend it).

author by Lucien van der Waltpublication date Thu Mar 10, 2011 23:28Report this post to the editors

Wayne,

I just wanted to close my responses by reiterating that I appreciate the opportunity to debate with you, and that I, too, have learned a great deal from you.

Comradely yours
Lucien

author by Waynepublication date Sat Mar 12, 2011 23:26Report this post to the editors

I raised the point of what Marx met by the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat." I noted that an author (Hal Draper) had written two books on the subject, going into detail about every single incident where Marx and/or Engels had used the phrase, quoting each one, and then discussing its context. I wrote that this had persuaded me that what they meant was the "rule of the working class as a class," neither more nor less. As Draper noted, this was not the (later) interpretation of Lenin or Trotsky, but was the interpretation of Rosa Luxemburg.

To refute this conclusion, you must either read one of the books (KMTR vol. III, preferably) and come to different conclusions, or cite someone else who did. Instead you write that you do not trust the author (who has biases against anarchism, not the topic in dispute), and that there is other evidence that Marx was an authoritarian in other ways (also true, but not a response to this argument), This is similar to Iain's example of someone who criticized Stirner or Proudhon after reading Marx's critique of themt, without personally reading either one's actual writings.

BTW, you had originally cited quotations by Marx on building an authoritian party, from p. 99 of Black Flame. I pointed out that there were no quotations from Marx on p. 99, just quotations by Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao. Instead of admitting your error, you point out that you have quotations from Marx on other pages. No doubt you do.

Both you and Iain have a poor opinion of Draper. For my view (which I think is more balanced), see my essay on Hal Draper. It can be fouind in my new book, Anarchism & Socialism, or on line:
http://utopianmag.com/archives/socialism-from-above-or-...below

The point of all this is not to make Marx into an anarchist or decentralist. He wasn't. It is to demkonstrate another side of Marx, a libertarian-democratic side, which has been distorted by Marxist-Leninists, but which was real. This makes it possible to use certain aspects of Mfarx's work, without becoming full-fledged "Marxists."

Dor example,the council communist Paul Mattick, Sr. wfas *for* the "dictatorshiip of the proltariat," by which he meant the "democratic class rule of the working class." But he rejected any notion of a workers' state or transitional state. "Marx and Engels acknowledged...the victorioius working class would neither institute a new state nor seize control of the existing state, but exercize its dictatorship....This dictatorship is not to become a new state..." (Marxism; Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie?).

Today we would say that the working class would take power, leading all of the opressed, but not establish a new state.

author by Lucien van der Waltpublication date Mon Mar 14, 2011 17:29Report this post to the editors

Sorry Wayne, it’s not that simple.

You have not shown any reason why Draper (or Mattick) should be taken more seriously than the views and readings on these issues of the entire mainstream tradition of Marxism. (Not to mention the views and readings of the entire mainstream tradition of anarchism on these issues).

Nor have you really addressed any of the Marx-Engels textual material Iain and I provide that refutes Draper's claims, nor refuted it.

Rather, on both counts, your position rests on argument-by-authority.

Insistence on Draper also effectively sidesteps the whole historical aspect of the issues, ignoring how Marx-Engels actually operated politically, the parties and formations they formed and/ or led, and what those show about their views. There is a history of Marxism before Leninism, that shows something rather different to what Draper claims (and in any case, the history of Marxism with Leninism is still part - the major part - of the history of Marxism, and has definite continuities with the earlier history).

Even if Draper's exegeses were correct (which they are not), this effectively means debating in a historical vacuum where the truth of what Marx-Engels meant is all a matter of interpretation, settled by quotation and exegeses, rather like debating theology.

Understanding Marx-Engels and Marxism historically means, on the contrary, that we can easily settle which interpretation is correct by the simple expedient of seeing which one corresponds to the programmes and positions of C19 (and C20) Marxist movements - not least those that Marx-Engels founded.

Thus, the Marx-Weitling class, Marx-Proudhon clash, the Communist League, Marx-Bakunin clash, the expulsion of the anarchists from the Labour and Socialist international, the debates against the Jungen in the old German SDP, also provide a rich field for settling these issues.

Anyway, I will leave matters there.

Lucien

PS. So Mattick meant the DOP in the most literal sense. Good for him. That does not prove its the mainstream Marxist view, nor Marx's own view. We can find plenty of anarchists saying the exact same thing, but we don't assume this means anything about Marx's views. In 1919,. Eusebio Cardo of the Spanish CNT also stated (meaning DOP in this sense) that "We justify the dictatorship, we admire the dictatorship, we long that the dictatorship come, and we long for it," (Thorpe, "Workers Themselves", p. 112). And Malatesta stated that year, too, taht if "the expression ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ to mean simply the revolutionary action of the workers in taking possession of the land and the instruments of labour,” then “the discrepancy between us would be nothing more than a question of semantics" ("No Gods, No Masters", vol. 2, pp. 38-9).

author by Lucien van der Waltpublication date Mon Mar 14, 2011 17:53Report this post to the editors

1. I should have added that the "Marx-Weitling class, Marx-Proudhon clash, the Communist League, Marx-Bakunin clash, the expulsion of the anarchists from the Labour and Socialist international, the debates against the Jungen in the old German SDP" all provide plenty of context for what Marx wrote and what it meant. None of these contexts show a particularly democratic or libertarian bent to Marx-Engels. Draper's bias against anarchism - which you claim is "not the topic in dispute" - is revelant precisely because _because_ Draper, in "discussing" the "context " of Marx-Engels statements, misrepresents the context by misrepresenting the actors and issues.

2. My criticism of your position on Marx-Engels certainly does not make the mistake to which Iain refers i.e. "someone who criticized Stirner or Proudhon after reading Marx's critique of themt, without personally reading either one's actual writings." We are debating Marx-Engels, and my positions all rest on primary texts, not citations of secondary sources (like Draper), although I use a number of secondary texts as well (e.g. Goulner). Of course Draper comes in, but how can Draper be criticised if NOT by primary materials?

3. I admit that p. 99 does not provide a direct Marx quote. My point (in citing other pages) is simply that you are incorrect to cite this as evidence of misresentation of Marx on these issues.

author by Lucienpublication date Fri Apr 01, 2011 19:22Report this post to the editors

Wayne, one last note to a discussion that has tailed off.

If Draper was right, then a whole lot follows; I don't think you have fully considered the implications for anarchism itself of Draper's claims.

- IF Draper was right, and Marx's DOP merely meant the whole working class ruling, directly, then there was no need whatsoever for the emergence of anarchism in the first place. As Malatesta said, that's the sort of DOP anarchists would support.

- IF Draper was right, then all the major anarchists were either fools or liars, because they failed to understand Marxism in the days of Marx, or simply lied. What reason, then, is there why any of us should bother with such a lame and inept tradition?

- IF Draper was right, then Marx was right, and Bakunin wrong, on the central issues in the Marx/ Bakunin debate. If so, by rights, we should side with Marx. But if we side with Marx, then we side against Bakunin/ the Alliance/ the FORE / the anarchist majority in the IWMA and have no place in the anarchist tradition. What then are we doing on anarkismo?

This doesn't imply we should move to Marxism, though:

- IF Draper was right, of course, then Marxism itself is pretty much a movement of fools and liars as well. Draper's claims would render pretty much every Marxist after Marx - including notables like Kautsky, Bebel, Plekhanov, Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Castro, Ho, Machel- as fools or liars, and their movements as movements based on idiocy or ill-intent. Draper does not do Marxism any favours.

- IF Draper was right, too, then there is pretty much no Marxist tradition to speak of, because Draper's claims would render pretty much all of Marxism after Marx a monument to futility. Just as Draper's claims would make of anarchism a lame and inept tradition, it would make of Marxism another.

- IF Draper is right, then Marx himself was a monumental fool, unable to convey his basic ideas in a language understandable to men of real brilliance like Lenin. But tihs point, like the two that precede it, would make of Marxism (at most) a great historical failure, and of Draper's masterwork an exercise in scholastic futility for the simple reason that Marx and Marxism would evidently have very little to offer anyone. His supposed recovery of Marx would necessarily also imply the necessity of repudiating Marxism.

Lucien

author by Waynepublication date Tue Apr 05, 2011 05:18Report this post to the editors

Lucien's comments are witty but only partially to the point. I am not all that interested in whether Marx or Bakunin were right and how we locate ourselves in a tradition.

(1) Both Marxism and anarchism developed out of the same working class and socialist movement and share the same goals, of a society without classes, states, or other oppressions.

(2) While they each have had their successes, both Marxism and anrchism have failed badly so far. Neither has resulted in anything like successful working class revolutions. Anarchist revolutions have all failed. Those Marxist-led revolutions which have "succeeded" produced nightmares which would have revolted Marx (for all that aspects of his theories contributed to these results). So no tradition has all the answers.

As I have written before, I believe that there are both authoritarian and libertarian-democratic trends in both anarchism and Marxism, although anarchism is overall more libertarian, humanistic, and working class. I have argued this in some detail in my writings. Lucien does not accept this conclusion, at least for anarchism, although he seems to accept the idea that there are "two Marxisms." That is okay with me. Over time we can have further discussion.

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Issue #3 of the Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective

Front page

Elementos da Conjuntura Eleitoral 2014

The experiment of West Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) has proved that people can make changes

[Chile] EL FTEM promueve una serie de “jornadas de debate sindical”

Ukraine: Interview with a Donetsk anarchist

The present confrontation between the Zionist settler colonialist project in Palestine and the indigenous working people

Prisões e mais criminalização marcam o final da Copa do Mundo no Brasil

An Anarchist Response to a Trotskyist Attack: Review of “An Introduction to Marxism and Anarchism” by Alan Woods (2011)

هەڵوێستی سەربەخۆی جەماوەر لە نێوان داعش و &

Contra a Copa e a Repressão: Somente a Luta e Organização!

Nota Pública de soldariedade e denúncia

Üzüntümüz Öfkemizin Tohumudur

Uruguay, ante la represión y el abuso policial

To vote or not to vote: Should it be a question?

Mayday: Building A New Workers Movement

Anarchist and international solidarity against Russian State repression

Argentina: Atentado y Amenazas contra militantes sociales de la FOB en Rosario, Santa Fe

Réponses anarchistes à la crise écologique

50 оттенков коричневого

A verdadeira face da violência!

The Battle for Burgos

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Reflexiones en torno a los libertarios en Chile y la participación electoral

Mandela, the ANC and the 1994 Breakthrough: Anarchist / syndicalist reflections

Melissa Sepúlveda "Uno de los desafíos más importantes es mostrarnos como una alternativa real"

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textReport from St. Imier International Congress, 8th-12th August 2012 22:28 Mon 10 Sep by Collective Action 0 comments

This year marks the 140 year anniversary of the first anarchist International held at St.Imier, Switzerland, in 1872. In celebration of the anniversary an international gathering was called in St.Imier in mid-August. A contingent of Collective Action militants attended the gathering along with thousands of other anarchists from around the world to discuss politics, create new international ties and, of course, have some fun.

anarkismotent.jpg imageDelegation returns from International Anarchist Gathering at St Imier 16:13 Wed 22 Aug by Andrew Flood 4 comments

August saw a gathering of a couple of thousand anarchists from all over the globe in St Imier, Switzerland. This small town was the site of the founding of the Anarchist International in 1872, the gathering was organised to commemorate this event and involved dozens of political, organisational & cultural events. As part of this gathering Anarkismo, the international network that the WSM is the Irish section of, held both a European conference and a global gathering. [Italiano]

300_0___20_0_0_0_0_0_5423_popupp.jpg image"Black Flame" blog updated again 20:09 Tue 13 Dec by Lucien van der Walt 0 comments

The Black Flame blog has just been updated. The blog collates news, views and reviews of Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt's book, "Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism".

zababooks_logo_2011.png imageNew Zabalaza Books website 23:25 Thu 08 Sep by Zabalaza Books 0 comments

The Zabalaza Books pages have moved to the new ZB site.

Freedom Bookshop, venue for the event imageConference of European Anarkismo organizations in London 18:02 Wed 23 Mar by European Coordination Committee 0 comments

On the weekend of 26-27 February 2011, delegates representing organizations from the UK, France, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Italy met to discuss how they could work more closely together. [Dansk] [Deutsch] [Italiano] [Ελληνικά] [Nederlands]

videoComunique from A(A)A. Anon Anarchist Action 03:47 Thu 24 Feb by NetAnarchist 0 comments

In the last few years, Anonymous has gained increasing notoriety for its action against websites, agencies and organizations that promote censorship and control. It has helped spread information and supported protestors demanding freedoms and rights. But the popularity of the movement, the attention it brings along, and the structure it has engendered threaten to push Anonymous away from the decentralized, collective movement it has been. As decisions become more centralized and newcomers jump on the bandwagon, Anonymous risks becoming yet another ineffective reformist group, fueled by well-meaning rethoric but subject to third party interests and paralyzed by its fear of authority...

book.jpg imageNew Book: Anarchism & Socialism: Reformism or Revolution? 03:23 Thu 26 Aug by Wayne Price 0 comments

Anarchism & Socialism: Reformism or Revolution?
by Wayne Price

From the Foreword by Andrew Flood (Workers Solidarity Movement--Ireland):

"This collection of essays by Wayne Price…will hopefully play a significant part in helping us build the movement we need…..This volume represents a good foundation to this process. It revisits many of the essential basic questions and lays down a coherent position in regard to them. Wayne's insights are important to us because they are based not just on a theoretical study of revolution but on five decades of practical experience in the North American left and the anarchist movement"

organisational_platform_of_the_general_union_of_anarchists_draft1.jpg imageAnnouncing the new Anarchist Platform Archive 06:54 Tue 22 Jun by AP Archive 0 comments

Announce the new Anarchist Platform Archive. The Anarchist Platform Archive is an archive of texts relating to the publishing of the Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad (“Delo Truda” Group) in 1926.

cover_v_1_b.jpg image"Black Flame" blog updated 21:07 Sat 24 Apr by Lucien 0 comments

The Black Flame blog has just been updated. The blog collates news, views and reviews of Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt's book, Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' .

start.gif imageZabalaza Books Update - 7 January 2010 15:05 Fri 08 Jan by Griffin 0 comments

As of 7 January 2010 the Zabalaza Books website has just been updated with the following:

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imageStuart Christie's Preface to "Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndica... May 11 by Red and Black Action 0 comments

Stuart Christie's Preface to Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt, "Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism" (AK Press, San Francisco)

imageThe Political Thought of Errico Malatesta Mar 08 by Felipe Corrêa 1 comments

This text is divided into four main parts for the presentation of Malatesta’s political thought: a.) a brief description of the author’s life, the political environment in which he found himself and his main interlocutors; b.) a theoretical-epistemological discussion, which differentiates science from doctrine/ideology and, therefore, the methods of analysis and social theories of anarchism. A notion that will be applied to the discussion of Malatestan thought itself; c.) theoretical-methodological elements for social analysis; d.) conception of anarchism and strategic positions. [Português]

textSpecifism explained Sep 11 by Collective Action 0 comments

In discussing the platform of Collective Action some individuals have expressed confusion at our use of the label "specifism" to describe the tradition of social anarchism we associate with. The following is a short introduction to what we consider to be the most essential concepts within the specifist model. This text is an adaptation of a forthcoming interview with Shift Magazine on anti-capitalist regroupment. [Italiano]

imagePutting the record straight on Mikhail Bakunin (1976) Feb 01 by Alliance Syndicaliste Revolutionnaire et Anarcho-syndicalist 3 comments

This text was a translation from the French, and was published in English in the Libertarian Communist Review, no. 2, 1976. It is an excellent discussion of Bakunin, his method and his views on issues like dual organisationalism and taking power. Therefore it merits more exposure to contemporary militants.

imageLandauer’s Fallacy Jul 28 by Wayne Price 8 comments

There is a often-cited quotation by Gustav Landauer, that the state is only a relationship. It is frequently used to argue for a non-revolutionary anarchist strategy. I argue that it is mistaken and misleading. [Italiano]

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image"Black Flame" blog updated again Dec 13 0 comments

The Black Flame blog has just been updated. The blog collates news, views and reviews of Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt's book, "Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism".

imageNew Zabalaza Books website Sep 08 Zabalaza Books [ZACF] 0 comments

The Zabalaza Books pages have moved to the new ZB site.

imageConference of European Anarkismo organizations in London Mar 23 Anarkismo European Coordination 0 comments

On the weekend of 26-27 February 2011, delegates representing organizations from the UK, France, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Italy met to discuss how they could work more closely together. [Dansk] [Deutsch] [Italiano] [Ελληνικά] [Nederlands]

videoComunique from A(A)A. Anon Anarchist Action Feb 24 Anon Anarchist Action 0 comments

In the last few years, Anonymous has gained increasing notoriety for its action against websites, agencies and organizations that promote censorship and control. It has helped spread information and supported protestors demanding freedoms and rights. But the popularity of the movement, the attention it brings along, and the structure it has engendered threaten to push Anonymous away from the decentralized, collective movement it has been. As decisions become more centralized and newcomers jump on the bandwagon, Anonymous risks becoming yet another ineffective reformist group, fueled by well-meaning rethoric but subject to third party interests and paralyzed by its fear of authority...

imageNew Book: Anarchism & Socialism: Reformism or Revolution? Aug 26 0 comments

Anarchism & Socialism: Reformism or Revolution?
by Wayne Price

From the Foreword by Andrew Flood (Workers Solidarity Movement--Ireland):

"This collection of essays by Wayne Price…will hopefully play a significant part in helping us build the movement we need…..This volume represents a good foundation to this process. It revisits many of the essential basic questions and lays down a coherent position in regard to them. Wayne's insights are important to us because they are based not just on a theoretical study of revolution but on five decades of practical experience in the North American left and the anarchist movement"

more >>
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